I promise I will get some discipline into this thing, and provide some sort of chronological account of where I went and wot I done. Eventually. But first there is something I want to get down. Like Marek I am developing the habit of having so much I urgently need to say that I can rarely get to the point or communicate anything of any interest or value. Anyway, I promised earlier I would tell you about this incident.
Oh, by the way (the preface to a typical Marek aside) it seems nobody can post comments on this blog - or only those with exceptional IT skills. Never you mind, like Marek I am now stuck on transmit and nothing will stop me - even the realisation that nobody is listening (or in this case reading). And, by the byway, somebody is reading. So far I have had 1,909 hits from 11 countries. So there.
Somebody who did manage to comment advised me to beware of hubris. I think this was a reference to my suggestion that my luck (hitherto rather bad) was about to change. It didn't. And here's why:
Some bugger stole my iPhone. Oh no he didn't! Oh yes he bloody did! It wasn't just the money (and on close scrutiny of my insurance policy I wasn't going to get back even 10% of the replacement cost), it was all my contacts, diary, music, apps and the sheer sodding aggro of putting it all back together. Yes, yes. I know: you can back all this stuff up into a bloody cloud or something. But I couldn't - although I'm damn well going to learn now.
As someone younger and wiser than me pointed out, bringing valuable stuff to Africa implies the acceptance of a certain probability of theft. But it wasn't my bloody fault. And the thief carefully selected MY phone out of all the tempting and valuable kit he could just as easily have laid his hands on. I'm not going to bang on about whose fault it was. It was a forgivable (and forgiven) mistake. The chap who let the villain on the truck, against all the rules, has apologised nicely, he can't afford to cover my uninsured losses, and he is an exceptionally good guy. And we came to an arrangement which distributed the pain in a manner we both concluded was reasonable. But read on - he's not going to lose out.
The police (whose investigative skills and persistence I now admire so much) arrived and demonstrated yet another useful policing skill. A bystander who must have witnessed the theft denied having seen or knowing anything. The police took him aside for the briefest of moments, and when they returned he was ashen-faced and had told them everything they needed to know. I was a pinko until I came to Ethiopia, but now I will give my vote to any party who is tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime - and also promises to kick the shit out of any scumbag who nicks my stuff.
Again the police explained that they were 100% certain they would get it back. They now knew who it was, and that he had left his workplace and disappeared. Oh me of little faith. I tried to write off in my mind any hope of recovery by means of the application of liberal amounts of beer and, when that ran out, neat vodka. It worked - for a while. The next day my fellow travellers fell into two camps: those who greeted me jovially with much back-slapping, and those who would not meet my eye. I genuinely could not remember half of the things I said and did until I was reminded. They were, in general, not good things. I do recall having to be physically restrained and a bottle prised from my fingers as I attempted to murder a sneering passer-by who looked just like the sort of chap who might steal a phone. Such are the effects of stress.
Back to the boys in blue. They were mystified by my request for a crime report to pass on to my insurers. There wasn't going to be an insurance claim. They were going to get my phone back. I accepted that the guy could not evade them for long (thank God for ID cards. It is only miscreants who need fear their effectiveness in maintaining law and order), but I opined that he would have sold the phone long before they got him. "No problem" quoth the sergeant allocated to my case (as interpreted by Dasta - and yes, I will get round to Dasta eventually) "he will tell us who he sold it to, and if that guy sold it on he will also co-operate fully". I believed him - particularly when I saw a handcuffed "crime person" in the yard with a large surgical dressing on his face. I was so angry I asked if I could attend the interrogation when they had their man. I was politely told that it might prove a little too disturbing for a westerner. Jolly good, I say. No more bleeding hearts for me. Africa sure toughens a man up.
I won't keep you in suspense. This time there is a happy ending. It took 4 weeks for the police to nail the blackguard and recover the phone. Imagine leaving your job, your home, family, friends and the town you have probably never previously set foot outside, and hiding out for 4 weeks with a phone (some superfical damage, locked, no useable SIM card, no charger, no earphones, no cables) with extremely limited saleability - unless the purchaser was happy to live with the strong probability of a late-night visit from the Shashemene police intent on a spot of light finger-breaking. So another malefactor, doubtless bruised and walking bow-legged, is languishing in a prison whose comforts and facilities are well off the bottom of Marek's "shit" scale for African accommodation. An example to the rest of the town no doubt. And he was never going to get away with it. In Ethiopia (as you will learn when I get round to telling you about the phone card scam in Gonder - I will. Eventually) you cannot buy a SIM card without full photo ID and detailed record-taking which will make you instantly traceable.
Farangis are too important to the prospects of the Ethiopian economy to let anyone get away with abusing them. The Ethiopian police make the Met look like a load of half-soaked patsies.
Next time, I promise, I will get back to doing this properly. Unless the Marek effect has taken such a hold on me that I will never be able to communicate coherently again. Simply speaking. Et cetera, et cetera.